Portrait of a Real American

2 Oct
Columbus Abbit Frank

Columbus Abbit Frank

Today I have the honor and privilege of introducing you to Columbus Abbit Frank, a U.S. Marine veteran who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Our family has known Frank for many years (he’s my husband’s uncle―who, incidentally, has been known only as “Frank” since he attended boot camp in 1944), but we never took the time to learn his story. All we knew about him was that he had fought at Iwo Jima.
In the 90s, Frank and his wife, Loretta, came to visit us in Northern Virginia, and we took them to a Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington (an amazing demonstration that I’d encourage every American to experience at least once).
Because of Frank’s service at Iwo Jima, he was seated in the hosting general’s section. Frank, then in his late-70s, wore the requisite veterans’ Iwo Jima ball cap as he walked past the gauntlet of civilians and Marines toward his seat. Every Marine who noticed the cap snapped to attention and saluted, adding either “Oorah, Sir,” or “Semper Fi, Marine,” or even just, “Thank you, Sir.” I’ve never seen a man treated more honorably, and was more proud of the Marine Corps at that moment than I’ve ever been, before or since. By the end of the night, Frank’s face was beaming, and his pride was evident.
Still, we didn’t ask for the entire story.
Nearly 20 years later, we visited the monument again, this time with our youngest. We told him about the battle, and that his great uncle had fought there, but we had no details to add. It was an awakening of sorts. We realized with regret that we’d been taking for granted the living history available to us just for the asking.
So, we set out to capture his story for the family archives, and got much more than we’d expected. Not only is this an incredible war story, but it also tells of a strong, hard-working man who refused to be kept down by the hand originally dealt him, and who made his own way in the world despite the challenges of his childhood. He is the epitome of Real America, where a person can advance as far as he can dream, if he’s willing to work for it.
Better yet, Frank has not only allowed me to tell his story, but also to hang it on my Portrait Page so we can share it with you. I hope you’re as inspired as we are by this ordinary man with an extraordinary story.

NOTE: Special thanks to Charles, my 14-year-old, who conducted the interview on a recent trip to Sacramento, and to his dad for getting him there.

God Bless you, Uncle Frank, and thank you for your service.

11 Responses to “Portrait of a Real American”

  1. Doug October 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Rose, thanks for writing Uncle Franks story. He is an amazing man and he deserves to be recognized for his service. I, too, have always wondered about the “whole story”, but have been afraid to ask. I never knew about him being in Nagasaki. What a great story.

    Doug

    • pjoy93 October 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Thanks Doug. He is rather cool. Makes you look at a lot of people differently, does it not?

  2. Willa October 2, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Rose you have done another great of ‘storytelling’. Frank is a wonderful guy and I am so happy that you did this tribute to him. Keep up the good work.! I wait anxiously for new posts.

    • Eric October 6, 2013 at 4:02 am #

      Rose,TYVM for relating Uncle Frank’s story to us

      • pjoy93 October 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

        You’re more than welcome. I enjoyed learning about him as well.

  3. Liz October 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    I have tried for years to get Uncle Frank to talk about Iwo Jima but he would only tell me about life on the ship. He would never talk about battle. I am glad he finely opened up and told the story. As a history major and a family member, I have always wanted to know his story.

    • pjoy93 October 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      THanks, Liz,
      I’m glad too. He’s a rather inspiring individual.

  4. Rebecca Webb October 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    So glad he shared his story!

  5. Eileen Turk October 7, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    Thank you Rose & Charlie & Jerry Fitzsimmons!! Wow – amazing story!!!!!!!! Love, Eileen Turk

  6. Loretta Frank December 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    Rose, I was re-reading this today, and had never read the replies before now. This all brought tears of joy to myself. I feel blessed to be married to this fine person. Thank you so much for your story. You are quite the talented writer, my dear niece! Loretta Frank

  7. Jo Anne Frank Edmoundson January 12, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Thank you Loretta for giving me this page to go to. I had not heard Uncle Frank’s story.I have always felt very blessed to have him for my uncle. She is a talented writer. Jo Anne Frank Edmoundson.

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